Some of Ronaldo Linares’s earliest memories are in a kitchen. His passion for healthy eating comes from an earlier time in his life. He remembers at age 5 standing on a milk crate, peeling potatoes at his parents’ restaurant and nightclub in Medellin, Colombia. To keep him out of trouble, they also put him in charge of boiling and hand-grinding corn for arepas.
“During that time, I was like, ‘This sucks,’” recalled Linares, now the executive chef at his parents’ Cuban restaurant in Somerville, New Jersey.
But those experiences and memories instilled in him a love of food. The cookbook author and contestant on Food Network’s “Chopped” have come a long way since the days he helped make the corn patties popular in his native Colombia.
The 36-year-old father of two honed his culinary skills when he was a cook in the Marines. Linares had to stick to a strict menu, but as he proved himself in the kitchen, he was allowed to cook Cuban shredded beef, garlic chicken and other dishes he learned to make watching his parents.